3M Nexcare Acne Stickers (Regular and Oily Skin) Review

Although the things asian skincare has done for me are wonderful and I'm a lifelong fan of asian cosmetics, the fact is, pimples still happen.  

Warning: this post will contain discussion of disgusting things, but no graphic photos.

I am in my early 30's and I dread looking at the mirror and seeing wrinkles and blemishes side-by-side, because dammit, acne is supposed to be for teens and wrinkles are supposed for be for adults and they shouldn't be meeting in the middle!   I am currently following a skincare routine that heavily features AHAs (and BHAs to a lesser degree while I await a package with a strong BHA product) and while all this acid goodness is definitely helping to shift my facial texture away from pebbly chicken skin, it's also causing purging.***

I wouldn't say that it's hit a stage where the term 'pizza face' comes to mind, but horrifying things are surfacing from deep within my skin and if you've ever had the kind of blemish that comes from a long-formed blackhead trying to surface, you'll know that they a. take forever to heal, b. they're huge and raised when they come to a head, c. they don't drain well, so even if you extract them they just refill and grow like some sort of B-movie monster, and d. they HURT, making it nearly impossible to keep your hands off them unless you're really paying attention.

There are days I want to rock this look. would a pocket square pull it off?
Worse, you can't cover them, because no matter how skillful your application or how vast your array of concealers is, there's this huge bump on your face, catching every shift of light and screaming "EYEBALLS OF EVERYONE SHE TALKS TO! PLEASE DRIFT AWKWARDLY OVER HERE AND MAKE MY HOST SUPER SELF CONSCIOUS!  AWWW YEAH, SUCCESS!!"  

Not only that, but makeup tends to make them worse and things just spiral out of control, unless you are willing to walk around with a naked blemish slathered in acne treatments for a few days.  Or rock a paper bag for a while.  I wish this look was more socially accepted.

Well, thanks to hydrocolloid bandages, I can now wake up with even the most monstrous zit tamed to a surface flat enough for concealer, and protect sore blemishes from my unconscious urge to scratch the irritating thing on my face.

This week's review is of two types of hydrocolloid bandages specifically designed for acne from Taiwan: 3M Nexcare Acne Stickers Combo packs, one regular, and one for oily skin.  Read on for full details of their zit-flattening/healing magic!


Full Product Name:  3M Nexcare Acne Dressing Pimple Stickers Patch Combo + 3M Nexcare Acne Dressing Pimple Stickers Patch Combo & Oily Skin

Purpose: Circular hydrocolloid bandages that you apply over an open blemish, and it literally sucks the contents out while blocking airborne contamination and also your itchy fingers.

Texture:  They're small circles with a thickness noticeable enough for my husband to say "why do you have a sticker on your face?" and provoke a really awkward conversation.  Call me a romantic, but I really don't want to discuss the finer points of pus extraction with my spouse.  Definitely not something you can cover with makeup.

Quantity: Both have assorted sizes, the regular type comes with 36 stickers and the 'oily skin' type comes with 31.  

Availability:  I purchased mine from ebay (regular and oily) as this particular product is the Asian version and according to reviews, much better than the US version (3M Nexcare is actually a US brand) available locally.  I believe they are on Amazon as well.

Price:  Sadly they are quite expensive, $6.15 for the 36 pc regular ($0.17 per sticker) and $6.30 for the 31 pc oily skin ($0.20 per sticker) so I tend to use them only on those blemishes that I can tell are going to turn into weeks-long behemoths.  They're still cheaper than the US version ($7.99 and only available as an add-on shipping item) but since I tend to use them 1-4 at a time, I go through them fairly quickly. 

Rating:  4.5/5, because 90% of the time they succeed in preventing Mt. Vesuvius from fully erupting on my face, but sometimes there's no stopping it.

Repurchase:  Hell yes.  I have ordered some similar ones from Innisfree and will be testing those, but I've also tried the Lioele A.C. Trouble Patch which was completely useless, but that's because there was no awesome hydrocolloid action.

Full Review:

Hydrocolloid bandages are not new, but they're certainly new to me.  I had seen the big ones for blisters and such in the pharmacy section, but I had no idea that they're also used on acne.  They're fascinating, because they can be applied to an open blemish and will extract out the infection and goo without you having to manually extract anything and thereby damage your skin.  

Think about that for a minute.  No popping, picking, squeezing, etc needed.  Just carefully and gently open it (google for safe ways to do this), slap the hydrocolloid sticker on there, and let it do its thaaang.  Not only will it extract it all out, it will do so while keeping it clean and safe from further infection!

Here's the official explanation, courtesy of wikipedia:
A hydrocolloid dressing is biodegradable, non breathable and adheres to the skin so no separate taping is needed.  
The active surface of the dressing is coated with a cross-linked adhesive mass containing a dispersion of gelatin, pectin and carboxy-methylcellulose together with other polymers and adhesives forming a flexible wafer. In contact with wound exudate, the polysaccharides and other polymers absorb water and swell, forming a gel which is held within the structure of the adhesive matrix. The moist conditions produced under the dressing are intended to promote fibrinolysis, angiogenesis and wound healing, without causing softening and breaking down of tissue. The gel which is formed as a result of the absorption of wound exudate is not mobile and free running but held within the structure of the adhesive matrix. Most hydrocolloid dressings are waterproof, allowing normal washing and bathing.
I have found that as long as the surface around the blemish is dry enough for the adhesive to stick, it will stay on all night (or day) but is easy to remove.  Apparently it's not recommended to wear a single bandage for more than 8 hours, so perfect for overnight use but if you want to keep wearing it during the day, just peel it off and slap a new one on.  I apply mine after I have finished all my skincare because it's a pain to get my moisturizers around the bandage without lifting the edges and ruining the seal/contaminating it.  I just grab a clean tissue and wipe off any product that is on the blemish, pull up the edge of the sticker (I find it's easier to curve the backing and pull up the edge with a clean fingernail or tweezers) and peel it off the backing, stick it centred on my blemish, and head to bed.  When I wake in the morning, it will be a flat red spot ready to be camouflaged from the world.

Regular version
In the morning, I am usually greeted by a disgusting pool of 'wound exudate' (thank you wikipedia for giving me a term that doesn't make me gag to type) suspended in the bandage, and when I peel it off, I have a nicely flat blemish that can easily be covered by concealer.  Sometimes even just BB cream is enough.  I do run through a full morning routine before I apply any makeup and also make sure the area is dry before I cover it, so it's not like I am slapping makeup over it right after I take off the bandage.

 These work so well that I have actually had them drain so much 'exudate' that it spread all the way to the edge of the bandage and lifted it.  Cue vomiting noises.  Still, I'm relieved that the crud I am seeing is out of my skin, instead of in it.  In fact, sometimes it extracts so much goo that my skin underneath is indented having the mass form between my skin and the bandage, which indicates that it does in fact form the 'gel' mentioned above and suspends the 'exudate' in a way that keeps it from reacting with the wound itself.  Science, I love you so.

Oily skin version

In terms of the differences between the Oily Skin and regular versions, both of them seem to extract the same amount of 'exudate' but the Oily version appears to have extra ingredients which makes them almost tingle when I apply them.  Unfortunately I can't read Chinese so I can't give you an ingredients list and tell you what the actual differences are.  Because these were more expensive, I saved them for blemishes that seemed especially angry and likely to flare up.  I will say that with either, none of the horrors that tried to erupt on my face stayed sore for longer than a day if I used these patches.

Compare that to a week or longer of inflammation, and that's pretty damn miraculous.  The Oily skin patches felt like they had a traditional acne fighting element to them, like one of those Neutrogena Acne Wartime Weapon of Mass Destruction and Blemish Obliteration type cleansers I abused my poor teenage skin with.

For that reason, if you have very sensitive skin you may want to avoid this version and go with the plain type.  I don't feel they aggravated my skin, and they did (mostly) stop angry eruptions in their tracks, but they're definitely a spot treatment so it's not like I am unleashing whatever chemicals all over my face like I did in my youth.

***On purging: I am aware that 'purging' is largely a myth unless it is caused by 'active' ingredients, such as AHAs and BHAs. (source)  I am using both in my current routine, including a daily 8% AHA peeling serum.  Please do research on purging and familiarize yourself with what is actual purging vs your skin breaking out due to irritation.  The acids I am using are helping to bring comedones to the surface and most simply roll out of my skin either during application of my products as I smooth them onto my skin, or more heavily as I am doing an occasional oil cleanser massage.  Some don't neatly fall out of my skin and instead come to a head as a blemish, albeit with a nasty hard core at the centre.

Final Thoughts:

Hydrocolloid bandages are the shizz.  You can purchase the larger ones in the pharmacy section of places like Target, and cut them down to size but I prefer the convenience and hygiene of the pre-cut round stickers.  I only have secondhand accounts that the Asian 3M Nexcare versions are more effective than the US versions, so take that with a grain of salt.  I do love them and definitely recommend them, especially if you have the habit of unconsciously scratching at any raised bumps on your skin like I do, or the urge to pick at blemishes because you can't easily cover them with makeup. 

What's your thoughts on hydrocolloid bandages?  Have you tried them/did they work for you? Drop me a comment below, or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter!

**Disclaimer: All products reviewed/mentioned in my blog, are 100% purchased with my own money, with a single exception of a press sample I tested & reviewed in 2015 which swore me off of them forever.  This blog contains  both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and clicking the former before you shop means that this blog may receive a small commission to assist in this blog supporting itself.  Please see my Contact Info & Disclaimer policy for more information.


  1. Well I just ordered both of these. I can't wait to try them-they sound amazing!

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  2. I love these things! And Nexcare are my favorites. I have a pack from Purederm ad they fall of pretty fast :(

  3. What AHA peeling serum are you using?

    1. Mizon's 8% AHA Peeling Serum. I use the matching toner to prep the PH of my skin before use, then leave it on 20-30 min before putting on my next products.

  4. I bought a package of these on ebay after seeing this post, and I'm very happy with them. I'm lucky to have fairly "normal" skin in terms of oiliness, but I get hormonal breakouts, and they are normally deep, terrible cystic things.

    So I got my package in time to be prepared for the time of the month I'm likely to break out, and these worked wonders on the two bad pimples I had. Especially one that was super deep--I'm likely to poke and prod at those until they are horrible. Instead, one prod with a clean extraction tool and one large circular bandage later, it was in better shape than the smaller spot that had received the same treatment.

    I also have trouble keeping my hands off my face if I have raised areas and, even though these don't stop the initial touching necessarily, at least I touch the bandage and am reminded to stop. So, as far as I can tell, these are about the best acne treatment product I've used, because it treats the spot and prevents me from making it worse!

    1. So glad to hear they worked out for you! I agree that the benefit of them keeping my unaware, dirty mitts off my healing blemishes is one of the things I like best about them, right after their exudate extraction powers.

      I actually find that extraction = HCB works better for me than just leaving it alone, probably in part because I have a tendency to unknowingly scratch my face. :( Still, they go down so much quicker, and they also prevent temptation to pick at them. Win!

  5. These sounds amazing. Like quinctia I have hormonal breakouts too and they wreck havoc on my chin. I'm gonna try hydrocolloid bandages first to see if they'll work. Thanks so much for the review and tips!